Cattail Peak is the very high mountain between Balsam Cone and Potato Hill, and its rugged profile forms a unique vista as it stands so near its sister peak. These two mountains create a striking scene and a daunting climb that one has to negotiate either on the way down to, or up from, Deep Gap. This mountain is home to a very nice fraser fir forest, and some inviting level spots just below the summit block that make one wish to pause and enjoy the wilderness here on the South's highest crestline.
The easiest route is to take the Deep Gap (Black Mountain Crest) Trail from the Mount Mitchell picnic area just below the parking lot at the summit of Mount Mitchell. One can also get to the peak from Bolens Creek (from NC 1109) via an eight mile trek to Deep Gap, and then the one mile climb to Cattail Peak. Or you can catch the Colbert Creek Trail from the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area off of NC 80. Or via the Mountains to the Sea Trail also from the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area catching the connector Big Tom Gap Trail to the crest and then right to Cattail. All of these routes involve long climbs and very tough hiking, with Deep Gap from Mount Mitchell being the shortest and easiest.
There is no red tape.
It is requested that hikers camp only in Deep Gap when hiking the Black Mountain Crest. Of course I have to admit that there are some absolutely tempting campsites just below Cattail Peak, and that area is, technically, outside of the Mount Mitchell State Park boundary. Still, it's easy enough to hike over Potato Hill and down to Deep Gap where there are more varied campsites and where water is closer.
When To Climb
All year. Summer, to me, is the best time for this area.
Keep in mind that the Black Mountain peaks are the highest in the eastern USA, and the weather here can be extremely fierce during the winter months. Ice and deep snow and very powerful winds are not unusual during the winter.
Yes, there are a number of options. The Mount Mitchell State Park has a campground, and camping is allowed along the Black Mountain Crest Trail and all of the connector trails in the National Forest leading to Mount Mitchell State Park. There is no camping allowed along the crest inside the state park boundary.
One can access the Mount Mitchell online weather station here
A profile of the trail from Mitchell to Winter Star can be found here